Britain Goes to War

"In 1939, from the Cabinet Room of 10 Downing Street, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was forced to declare war on Germany."

Chamberlain Speaks to BritainSome say he tried his best to avert a war with a country that wanted nothing but war; others say he was blind and foolhardy in trying to deal with Nazi Germany. Through the takeover of Austria, the Munich crisis and eventually the invasion of Poland, England's prime minister, Neville Chamberlain attempted to negotiate with the obsessed and erratic Adolf Hitler.

His was a policy of appeasement. When he had taken office in May, 1937, his focus was on a European solution to German expansionism. He attempted to convince Hitler that war was not worth winning because British re-armament and the weak German economy would make Germany vulnerable to a British economic blockade. Chamberlain also felt that Hitler would set his sites on the East, an opinion that helped him in his decision to abandon Czechoslovakia during the Munich Crisis. Time after time, Chamberlain's policy of appeasement told Hitler he could nearly do what he wanted.

But ultimately, Hitler would have none of it. And so, with the invasion of Poland, a sadly, reluctant Chamberlain announced that England was at war with Germany.

First Austria, then Czechosolovakia and finally Poland. On the German march into Danzig, Hitler said "For half a millenium longer this soil has been German, and has remained German, and it will, you can rest assured, remain German." With this invasion, Chamberlain had no choice but to honor his agreement with Poland and move toward war. Hitler, it seemed, was not to be deterred.

After trying to avoid taking his country down this tragic path, Chamberlain angrily denounces Nazi Germany's decision to invade Poland. Radio was there to record this historic moment. This was the first time such a significant moment was conveyed to this nation by radio. Chamberlain told listeners "it is evil things we shall be fighting against." Lord Halifax, the British Foreign Minister, on criticism of the lackluster support of action by Britain against Hitler, comments on Hitler.

War had come to England.